Before we get to the first center back spot on my USMNT clipboard, let's have a little fun looking in on the Champions League exploits of one of our midfielders. Inspector Kljouseau is stationed as the left holding midfielder in a 4-3-3, paired with Demy De Zeeuw.
BEN - Artur Moraes; André Almeida, Luisão, Garay , Siqueira, Fejsa, Perez, Matić, Djuričić, Cardozo, Markovic
AND - Proto; Gillet, Kouyaté, Mbemba, N'Sakala, De Zeeuw, Kljestan, Milivojević, Bruno, Mitrović, Suárez
Game on. I'll get the line-ups posted above shortly.
Kljestan concedes enough space in defending a give-and-go above the area for André Almeida to get a low shot off from about 22 meters. The real problem, though, comes when Proto coughs up a juicy rebound for
Djuričić to feast on - Benfica 1-0.
Kljestan wins a free kick in his defensive end.
Benfica have obviously come out for blood. Anderlecht are for now mostly trying to weather the storm with minimal damage. Kljestan has seen the ball across midfield, but he did supply one decent shot block in the area.
Kljestan finally gets some possession work in just across midfield, but Suárez is about an eyebrow offside chasing after his lead lob into the left corner.
Cardozo completely undresses two Anderlecht defenders to work his way into the box on the left side, but
Mbemba is wise to his low centering feed.
Anderlecht are starting to come into the game and now they have a shot on goal. Mitrović's soft lob header is easily caught, though.
Cardozo is feeling frisky tonight and he has a pair of shots draw low saves in separate incidents. In between and at the other end, Kljestan's entry pass for Mitrović is deflected to the keeper.
This is turning into quite a spirited affair. Play is more end-to-end now, though Benfica still look more threatening.
Benfica corner, weak Anderlecht clearance and Luisão stays just onside to take a return header down on his chest for a side-footer past Proto. It's an exquisite goal for a center back and that makes it Benfica 2-0.
A low Matic shot slips under the jumping Kljestan and man possessed pro-tem Cardozo nearly deflects it home.
Kljestan hustles across to make an important challenge after Djuričić worms into the Anderlecht box on the left. Goal kick visitors.
At this point, I'm not really sure what Anderlecht's gameplan is, and there was never any tactical adjustment to the intense early Benfica pressure (which had only slightly waned by the break). When they do get the ball, it's all rushed and direct like an old Championship side - they should have taken the air out of the ball after the first goal, as well as at about 10 other junctures. Kljestan is barely to blame for any of the road team's first half woes, but this was always a game where they needed him to step up game/tempo control efforts.
Second half underway now. Anderlecht already look more aggressive.
Kljestan intercepts a low cross with a gluey touch and calmly starts Anderlecht out of trouble for now.
The teams seem to have switched playing personalities. Anderlecht are now working the ball around and Benfica are playing silly long balls.
Another Anderlecht possession , this time led by Kljestan's linking, and Mitrović eventually nods home a cross - but he's whistled for a push in the back.
Kljestan with a strong ball shield to win a free kick near midfield. Anderlecht now are winning the midfield battle.
Kljestan with a nice change of pace dribble before teeing up Suárez for a 20-meter shot that draws a decent save. The more touches Inspector Kljouseau gets, the more Anderlecht look like turning the game around.
Suárez wins a corner. As with all of their restart serves in the first half, this one by Kljestan is a waste, hit directly to the keeper. At least he got it into the box, unlike the others.
Kljestan snaps up a loose ball above his area and does well to start Anderlecht forward. Their attack dies at the Benfica box when a Suárez move falls apart.
Kouyaté misplays a cross and Cardozo just misses bagging his second of the day.
80'I stepped away for a couple minutes and Kljestan saw yellow. Then he won another free kick, his game high fourth.
Kljestan pulls the strings on an Anderlecht attack, but Suárez is all dribble and no shot once he's played into the area. Cue Wayne Gretzky quote.
Looking around the continent, both Eric Lichaj and Tim Ream have assisted on 2-2 equalizers at home. Both games are into the last 10 minutes or so.
Anderlecht keep coming, but the final balls/moves typically lack sharpness.
Kouyaté kisses home a long free kick with the back of his head, but is correctly flagged offside by the linesman. After a rough start, the Belgian champs are now really not that conceivably far off being level in this one.
Suárez draws a good save with a corner kick header.
Not a bad effort in the second half, but Kljetsan & Co. have a lot of work to do before Olympiakos arrives for Matchday 2 in early October.
- Greg Seltzer